"Gardens of the Arts and Crafts Movement; Reality and Imagination" by Judith B. Tankard Harry N. Abrams, 2004, $50 Garden historian Judith Tankard's book on Gertrude Jekyll ("Gertrude...

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Garden historian Judith Tankard’s book on Gertrude Jekyll (“Gertrude Jekyll: A Vision of Garden and Wood”) was instrumental to my appreciation and understanding of gardens, because it was the first time I ever really understood what the doyenne of British gardening was all about.

Tankard’s elegant writing is accessible, and her enthusiasm for gardens of the past shines through every word. She’s particularly expert at explaining that all-important connection between houses and gardens in terms that those of us not trained in architecture can understand.

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“Gardens of the Arts and Crafts Movement; Reality and Imagination”

by Judith B. Tankard

Harry N. Abrams, 2004, $50

The Arts and Crafts movement, which began in England in the late 19th century, celebrated simplicity, handcraft, utility and natural materials. These values remain implicit in gardens today, as do the connections between graphic design, decorative arts, architecture and garden design. We’re probably more familiar with William Morris and Charles Rennie Mackintosh as proponents of the movement, but landscape architecture also was an important part of the picture.

Perhaps these were the first gardens in the Western world to so integrate the house into the landscape, blurring the lines between indoors and out in a way very appealing today, especially in a mild climate like our own.

Drawings, paintings, old black-and-white photos and more current color photography illustrate Tankard’s journey through two centuries of gardens in England and America. Tankard brings her exploration up to the current day: “Many of the characteristics of the Arts and Crafts garden, namely craftsmanship, sophisticated plantsmanship, intimacy of scale and harmonious relationship with the house, are still relevant for today’s smaller gardens,” she writes.

Whether the specifics of the Arts and Crafts gardens appeal, or even apply much to Northwest gardens, this book brings a new understanding and appreciation for how the movement demonstrated the unity of garden, house and interior.

Valerie Easton also answers questions in Wednesday’s Plant Talk on the back of Northwest Life. Write to her at P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111 or e-mail planttalk@seattletimes.com with your questions. Sorry, no personal replies.